Saturday, 13 July, 2024

Building Planned Cities

Nepal has witnessed a rapid urbanisation as the people are migrating in droves to the urban areas in search of better living conditions and livelihood opportunities. In the past, the governments adopted planned settlement and urban development programmes to build cities in a balanced way but the objectives to make the towns as viable means of modernity and prosperity remained unfulfilled in the absence of desired level of industrial base, people’s economic status and technological innovation. As the nation opened up since 1990, people enjoyed more leeway to buy land and construct houses in the cities. Neoliberal policy gave rise to the autonomous urban sprawl but the urbanisation process turned chaotic, haphazard and unsustainable, causing social, political, economic and environmental problems. The metropolises and newly developed cities have failed to cater basic facilities such as drinking water, proper sewerage system and waste management to their residents. Kathmandu, the capital city of federal Nepal, is always fraught with the problem of waste disposal that reveals the poor urban governance, resulting from the political mishandling and bureaucratic inefficiency.

In 2053 B.S., the government unveiled National Residence Policy to effectively manage the urban services, targeting the people with low income. The policy was revised in 2068 B.S. with the concept of ‘Residence for All.’ It has set out a 10-year programme that aims to provide secure, adequate and need-based residences to the people living below the poverty line and those staying in unmanaged and risky settlements. It has envisioned increasing the appropriate, safe and environment-friendly residences and upgrading the existing ones, mobilising resources of residential areas and carrying out institutional reforms by clearly identifying the role of government, non-government organisations, private sector and the local community. Ten years after the implementation of the revised policy, the government is again planning to frame integrated laws to deal with the problems created by growing urbanisation across the country.

The other day, the Ministry of Urban Development organised a consultative seminar to formulate National Urban Policy, the Urban Development Act and the Utility Corridor Act. The idea of utility corridor is expected to sort out unmanaged supply of utility services that occur owing to the lack of coordination among the line agencies. It is an underground or above ground passage through which utility lines such as electricity, water supply, sewer pipes, steam water, optic fibre cables and telephone lines are carried. It reduces the conflict between various service providers by allowing a single and accessible space to the utilities. Addressing the function, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba underlined the need of formulating a policy to carry out the urban development and construction works in a coordinated manner. “It is necessary to maintain population balance through the Terai Madhes-focussed Consolidated Urban Development Programme that will be expanded to the municipalities in the mountainous and hilly regions," said the Prime Minister.

It is necessitous to bring the new policy and laws to address the emerging challenges of urbanisation. The new Acts should enhance the people’s access to advanced national urban infrastructures by properly mobilising resources and ensuring inter-governmental coordination. This requires developing effective urban governance that contributes to creating systematic, clean, healthy and beautiful cities. The policy needs to be people-centric and incorporate various dimensions of urban development. Attention should be paid to raise the living standards of urban poor and invest in building sustainable and resilient structures. The three-tier governments must work in tandem to craft balanced urban system essential to realise the dream of public health and prosperity.